8 frequently asked questions when buying off the plan…

While there are many benefits to buying off the plan, it can still be quite a foreign concept for many Australians when it comes to purchasing a property. 

Like with many things in real estate, there are pros and cons to all options. The deciding factor, will often come down to what best suits your financial circumstances and lifestyle. That’s why it’s important to know what questions to ask a property developer or sale person.

To help you decide if buying off-the-plan is for you, here we take a look at eight of the most frequently asked questions asked by first-time off-the-plan property buyers.

 1. How much deposit do I need to buy off the plan? 

When buying off-the-plan, you’ll most likely need to pay a 10% deposit when you sign the contract, with the balance due when it’s finished.

Typically the developer receives the interest on the deposit. However, it’s always wise to ask the sales person this question, as often you can negotiate to share part or full payment of the interest with the developer.

Your deposit will be held in a solicitor’s trust account until the project is finished or the registration/sunset period expires.

2. How long does an off-the-plan apartment take to build

Construction times vary depending on the size of the building, with larger apartment developments usually taking longer to build.

3. Will my apartment be identical to the display?

The display suite will be a good measure of the quality of your apartment’s finishes, but beyond that, you’ll need to inspect what you expect and ask the sales consultant how your apartment will differ from the display, as there are usually many different apartment types within every building.

Ask whether the display is the same in terms of kitchen, bathroom and bedroom dimensions and layout.

First home: Tips for buying off-the-plan as a first time buyer
Search tool: Find new apartments

4. Do you pay stamp duty when buying off-the-plan?

Whether you pay stamp duty or transfer duty on your new off-the-plan apartment will depend on a few things, including what state you have bought in, the price of your new home and whether you’re a first-home buyer, owner occupier, local investor or foreign investor.  

However, most states have incentives and concessions that may reduce your stamp duty. For example, Victoria has the off-the-plan duty concession where the dutiable value of your home (the amount your stamp duty is calculated on) is calculated as the contract price minus any construction costs incurred on or after the contract date. So, if you and your property meet the eligibility criteria for this concession, you’ll pay a lower stamp duty amount.  

5. When is settlement for buying off-the-plan?

Your contract should contain the specific settlement details, but as a general rule of thumb, you will be obligated to settle within in two weeks of the registration of the unit’s plan.

6. Can I get a mortgage to buy off the plan?

Yes, you can get a mortgage for off-the-plan. It’s best to speak to your bank or financial adviser to find a loan that best suits your situation.

It’s worth noting, that fixing your interest rate is one way to minimise exposure to interest rate rises. However, locking in a fixed loan rate may mean you may have to pay break costs if you want to pay out the loan early.

More from Guides

How to buy a house before you sell your current home

Investor’s guide: Tips for buying off-the-plan as an investment

7. How much are the levies or strata fees for off-the-plan?

A levy is the fee that the owner of an apartment in a strata plan must pay to the Owners Corporation for the management and upkeep of the building and common property.

Levies are generally payable quarterly, with the cost varying from one building to another, depending on the facilities and the number of apartments contributing towards the building’s upkeep.

8. Can I negotiate off-the-plan prices?

While most off-the-plan properties come with a fixed price, vendors might still be open to a negotiation.

Your best bet is to get in early once the properties hit the market – or during pre-sales – as they will likely want to show a good sales rate during the early phase.

Caution needed when buying a house with a small deposit….

A total of 20,000 places will be made available from July 1 in schemes operated by the federal government where first-home buyers and single parents need only a small deposit.

However, while qualifying first-home buyers can put down a deposit of 5 per cent and single parents just 2 per cent, there are traps that await the unwary.

The government is making more places available in its low deposit housing schemes from July 1
The government is making more places available in its low deposit housing schemes from July 1..

Mortgage interest rates are at a record low but at some point variable mortgage rates will start rising. Four-year and five-year fixed-rate mortgage interest rates are already on the way up as lenders anticipate that official interest rates set by the Reserve Bank of Australia will be higher by then.

And though a rise in variable-rate mortgage interest rates could be as much as a couple of years away, once they do start to rise, they could rise quickly, substantially increasing repayments by those taking out a low-deposit mortgage at a bargain-basement rate of interest.

Calculations by Canstar show repayments of $2,690 a month on a $588,000 mortgage over 30 years, using a variable interest rate 3.65 per – the average on its database. The total interest paid is $380,350.

However, if after four years the mortgage interest rate increases by one percentage point to 4.65 per cent, the monthly repayment increases to $2,994 – just over $300 a month higher – and the interest paid would be $475,273.

Even though a one percentage point rise is relatively low by historical standards, is has a big impact on repayments. That is something anyone thinking of taking part in one of the government’s low-deposit schemes needs to keep in mind.

Of course, there are advantages of getting into the property market earlier with a smaller deposit. Price rises, though now beginning to slow, are likely to continue their upward march for some time.

A big plus of the low-deposit schemes is that the borrower does not have to pay for lenders’ mortgage insurance. Though the insurance reimburses a lender for any shortfall should a property be repossessed and sold for less than its outstanding mortgage debt, it is paid for by the borrower.

Normally, a buyer needs a deposit of at least 20 per cent to avoid having to fork out for lenders’ mortgage insurance.

Under the low-deposit schemes, the government becomes guarantor for borrowers, so the first-home or single-parent buyer does not have to pay for the insurance.

The other issue for anyone buying with a small deposit is the potential of “negative equity”, where the money owed on the house is more than it is worth, should property prices fall significantly.

Buyers do not give it much thought when prices are rising, but property prices do indeed fall.

For someone who is putting down a deposit of only 2 per cent, or even 5 per cent, that does not leave a lot of room for prices to fall before hitting negative equity.

5 smart things you should do when buying your first home….

Avoid worrying about what you may have forgotten by ensuring you’ve covered these smart essentials of home buying. 

When buying your first home, there are a lot of things you need to get in order. Some are obvious, like getting your finances together. However, some others aren’t quite as clear.

If you’re thinking of buying your first home, here are some essentials to consider before taking the plunge.

1. Get organised early

From home loan pre-approval to First Home Buyer Grant applications and everything in between, you’ll be expected to hand over piles of documents throughout the buying process.

Figure out a filing system – physical and digital – for all your relevant documents. Picture: Pexels.


Consider keeping an organised file of your pay slips, tax documents, copies of various ID (birth certificates, passports etc.), proof of shares, bank statements, written references and so on.

Also, consider whether you’ll need to have any of these documents certified and get on to this before you even start your property search. You don’t want to be rushing around taking care of nitty gritty details when you’re ready to make an offer.

2. Get thorough inspections

Before you’ve laid down any deposits, it’s vital to check off a few inspections, particularly a pre-purchase building inspection.

You may fear it will delay the purchase or add to your mounting costs, but this isn’t the section to skip!

A pre-purchase inspection can detect drainage issues, mould, rot, foundation and structural issues as well as a range of other faulty features in the home. It can also detect anything in need of repair or help estimate costs of repairs down the track.

Remember this may not include a pest inspection, which is also an essential step.

3. Create or update your will

For most of us, real estate will be our single largest asset. Therefore, it makes sense to create or update your will.

“It’s important that real estate is distributed in accordance with the homeowner’s wishes upon their passing,” State Trustees lawyer and will writer Jason Falzon tells realestate.com.au.

“If you pass away without a valid will (‘dying intestate’), intestacy laws will apply. This means that the law will dictate who receives your assets upon your passing,” Falzon says.

“These people may include family members who you are no longer in contact with and/or ex partners.”

This could likely become an issue for many especially if you do not have any immediate family, have a former spouse/defacto partner, a blended family or a complex relationship with your family member(s).

Even if you have a simple family structure, Falzon informs that “passing away without a will usually leaves behind an unnecessary mountain of stress for your loved ones during an already difficult time.”

Not having a will can result in unintended consequences for your assets and make things more complicated for loved ones. Picture: Pexels


Another reason to have a will is to legally record how you want real estate and other assets to be distributed.

For instance, do you want someone (say a housemate or relative like a parent or child) to live in your real estate after your passing but not necessarily inherit the asset itself? Put it in your will. Do you want to give your real estate and your household belongings to different people? Put it in your will.

Understanding the ownership of your real estate is also essential.

For example, did you buy real estate with another person? If ‘yes’, you should be made aware that if you own real estate ‘jointly’, a surviving co-owner will automatically receive your share of the real estate when you pass away regardless on the terms of your will. On the other hand, if you own real estate as a ‘tenant in-common’, your share of the real estate will be distributed through your will.

If you need help preparing a will or recording special wishes regarding your real estate, book a Will Consultation with an expert will writer who can guide you through the process and prepare a will for you.

Otherwise, if your circumstances are straight forward and you have the confidence to give it a go yourself, an Online Will is a great option.

4. Update your insurance policy

The admin is not over yet! Once your contracts are signed, you may want to update your insurance as soon as possible. While laws vary between states regarding responsibility for the home during the settlement period, in many cases you may need to get building insurance to cover your purchase ASAP.

Furthermore, contact your insurer to ensure your contents are covered during and after you move into your new place.

Ensure you have home insurance prior to moving in and then make sure your contents are covered too. Picture: Getty


Starting early on this step may also allow you to review your insurance policy and compare it to others on the market. Who knows, you may save yourself a few dollars at a time when it is desperately needed.

5. Triple check your budget

When buying a house, brace yourself for the many hidden costs that may arise.

When factoring in how much you can spend on a home, be sure to include stamp duty (in most states), council rates and Lender’s Mortgage Insurance if you’ve saved a deposit under 20%

Some hidden costs may be one-offs, while others you may need to pay more than once, such as conveyancing, building inspections, loan application fees and more. These can be particularly painful if your journey to homeownership is long and full of false starts or unsuccessful offers.

5 home updates to do NOW to ensure you’re ready for winter

Winter is just around the corner. Find out what you can do to update your home for the cooler times ahead.

Some aspects of your home don’t have to stay the same all year round. In fact, a few small changes can go a long way towards making your home more energy efficient, less expensive to run and more comfortable during the winter months.

Here are a few tips to help dress your home for the cold.

Choose blockout curtains
Preparing your home for winter is all about insulation. It’s officially time to layer up!

Your window coverings do more than control light filtration. Up to 40 percent of your home’s heat can be lost through the windows. Therefore, when it gets colder outside, it’s a smart idea to invest in blockout curtains for added warmth.

Blockout curtains help with energy efficiency and reducing draughts.

A good option is Spotlight’s range of blockout curtains which not only help block out light, but they also provide insulation to keep the warmth in and the cold out.

Spotlight also has options for thermal insulated curtains, which come with an acrylic backing layer for added thermal protection. With a range of colours and sizes, you can also find the best fit for each space.

Change your bedding
Most of us are well aware that we can add blankets for warmth, but have you thought about the role of your bedding?

Linen bedding can still be an asset in winter.

First of all, you may need to swap to a heavier duvet if you’ve been using a lightweight style for summer.

Next, consider warmer quilt covers and sheets. Flannelette is a popular option given its higher thread count. However, for something more breathable try a natural fabric such as linen. You just need to ensure you top it all off with something heavy and insulating on top, like a woollen blanket.

Block draughts
While blockout curtains can help reduce draughts around your windows, you should assess any gaps that create potential draughts and allow heat to escape and cool air to enter.

Draught protection may include re-caulking around windows and doors to seal any cracks. Even non-invasive, simple solutions like door snakes placed at your door to prevent air leakage can have an effect.

Moveable door seals are also an option for under-door gaps. However, nothing quite does the job like a door snake!

Add a rug
Rugs are also another layer of insulation, especially if you have hard flooring. While a looser weave or polyester fabric rug may do the job in summer, consider something heavier for winter. Think of it like a coat: you need quality materials to keep warm.

Put an underlay under your rug for extra insulation and comfort. Picture: Unsplash

However, if you don’t want to invest in a new rug entirely – or children or pets prevent you from opting for something pricey and harder to clean – consider adding an underlay to improve insulation and provide a cushier feeling.

Extra padding
While it might not revolutionise the temperature of your room, adding extra fabric items – like throws and cushions – can improve insulation and provide added warmth. Cool air can blow right through a room and even more so if it’s slicking off timber, tiles or across the surface of your leather couch.

Cushions and throws can make your place feel cosier in an instant. Picture: Spotlight

Draping a throw over your couch and layering a few plush cushions will not only keep you warm while nestling in to watch a movie at night, but will also create a warm look and feel to a room – which never hurts! Load up on wool, velvet and chunky knits to really capture that winter vibe.

Home buying checklist for 2021..

Buying a property is a big investment, so to make sure you’re on top of the fine print we’ve created this handy checklist of some of the legal things you’ll need to do in order to make the transaction painless.

If this is the year you want to buy a home, it’s time to sit down and familiarise yourself with the process and going through the necessary steps to ensure you’ve covered off all basis when it comes to the home buying checklist. Here are the steps you need to take.

Make a shortlist of properties you like
Finding a new place is an important move so you are going to want to take the time to do the appropriate amount of research and shortlist a few places that ticks your boxes.

To start, narrow down the neighbourhoods you like. Somethings you might want to include on your “must have” list include:

Transport in the area
Access to schools
The facilities and features of the suburb like parks, cafes, restaurants and so on
Suburb profile including the people that live there and crime rates
Engage a conveyancer
Once you’ve made your shortlist of places, you need to check over the finer details of the properties of interest and this is where you need to engage experts.

The conveyancing process usually will be what kick starts your legal journey to property ownership so it’s important to engage a solicitor or conveyancer who will be able to take care of the legalities for you.

But what’s the difference?

“Registered conveyancers are experts who specialise in conveyancing work … Some conveyancers are qualified solicitors but many are non-solicitors who have completed specialist tertiary education in conveyancing. In fact, many law firms employ registered conveyancers to undertake their conveyancing work.”

The conveyancing process will be what kick starts your journey to property ownership.

While there are DIY conveyancing kits available, these are useful only for the most straightforward property transactions.

But even the most simple-looking transactions can become complicated by legislation and regulations, making DIY a riskier move on your big investment.

You’ll want your conveyancer to consider things like local or national planning controls, permitted uses, heritage overlays and body corporate constraints.

And like any transaction, if you have any concerns or additional knowledge regarding the property you’re buying, communicate them to your solicitor or conveyancer to ensure the best outcome.

Get to know the sales process
Conveyancing in Australia varies slightly from state to territory. And so does the sales process.

For instance, there’s no cooling-off period for auctions (which are popular in the big cities), but with private treaty sales it’s different. And it’s even possible to buy via ballot.

So make sure you know and understand the different sales processes before you start.

Check the title
Freestanding houses in Australia typically have a freehold Torrens Title. But other types of title exist for different property types and come with their own legalities.

Strata Title was introduced to Australia in 1961. It’s a system for handling the legal ownership of a portion of a building or structure including units, townhouses, villas, commercial offices, factories, warehouses, retail shops and more.

Before 1961 buyers used Company Title to effectively purchase shares in a building, and some older buildings remain under Company Title. Each system has its own pros and cons, as well as its own legalities.

Moving into your new apartment…

The day has finally arrived and you’re preparing to move into your brand-new apartment but there are still a few further things to think about before you settle in.  

Moving

Moving into your new apartment can be one of the most exciting moments of your life, especially if it is your first home. Most people take a few days to move in after they have settled but others cannot wait and dive straight in. However, moving into an apartment is not the same as a house and it may take a little more planning. 

Things to think about include: 

Access

Will you be carrying your whole life up the stairs or taking the elevator? You will need to inform your movers if they are going to be carrying things up themselves. Alternatively, if you’re using the elevator you may have to alert body corporate who may book an elevator for you and request protection be placed in the lift prior to the big move.

Your building manager

Having a building a manger and getting permission to move to a new house may be a new feeling but it is step one of realising you now live in a complex and need to be respectful of your neighbours. Chat to your building manager to discuss any issues that may arise. They likely have also seen many other people move in and may have a few tips.

Removalist insurance

Apartment complexes can be tricky environments to move around in with big furniture, and bumps and accidents are almost certainly likely to occur. This should be a consideration when choosing a removalist and it is worth checking what their policy is on damage and whether their insurance is up to date. This will give you peace and mean you’re covered in the case of something going wrong.

Height restrictions and parking

When it comes to moving vans, a little pre-planning will make the day run smoother. Most apartment blocks don’t have a driveway you can park in and most car parks will have height restrictions, so it could be worth taking note of these before you choose what type of moving van to go with.

Time of day

Out of hours moving will not go down well with your neighbours. It is also normal that newer and larger complexes have rules about time of days you can do the heavy lifting. If you’re moving outside 9am and 5pm you also will likely encounter lots of people heading to work or coming home, so maybe take the day off and get it done during the quiet period.

Reserve Bank pours cold water on inflation and rate hike fears…

Wages will have to grow at an annual pace not experienced for eight years before the Reserve Bank considers another interest rate hike.

The central bank said as much in the minutes of an April board meeting released on Tuesday.

While noting the economy was recovering faster than anticipated from last year’s recession, the RBA said wages growth and inflation was expected to remain subdued for several years – which means an interest rate hike is off the table for the foreseeable future.

The Reserve Bank said too many people are looking for jobs or more hours for the economy to generate enough wages growth to achieve its inflation target of 2 to 3 per cent per year.

“It would take some time to reduce this spare capacity and for the labour market to be tight enough to generate wage increases consistent with achieving the inflation target,” the board minutes read, in stark contrast to fears among financial markets of a potential inflation outbreak.

“It was likely that wages growth would need to be sustainably above 3 per cent, which was well above its current level.”

The last time Australian workers enjoyed pay rises of this magnitude was in the March quarter of 2013.

Stagnant wages

Wages growth since then has dragged on consumer spending and acted as a handbrake on the economy – hitting a record low of 1.4 per cent during the pandemic last year.

And despite the rapidly improving outlook for jobs, the RBA does not expect the labour market to be strong enough to trigger decent pay rises “until 2024 at the earliest”.

But not everyone agrees.

Economists at Commonwealth Bank believe the recovery in the labour market will lead to a pickup in wages much sooner than the RBA anticipates, which would trigger a rate hike before 2024.

The bank’s optimism is based on the fact international border closures will restrict the supply of labour at a time when demand for labour is strong.

“We expect wages growth to lift to 2.7 per cent by end 2022,” CBA economist Belinda Allen wrote in a note.

“This could prompt the RBA to eventually change its forward guidance around the conditions not warranting a lift to the cash rate until ‘2024 at the earliest’.”

RBA to monitor housing market

Elsewhere, the RBA board acknowledged “housing prices had increased significantly in recent months”, and noted low interest rates and government incentives had contributed to the boom.

Commonwealth Bank expects national house prices to rise 10 per cent in 2021 while Westpac has tipped annual growth of 10 per cent in 2021 and 2022.

“Given the environment of rising housing prices and low interest rates, the bank would be monitoring trends in housing borrowing and the maintenance of lending standards carefully,” the RBA said.

But the central bank said there were currently no signs of a deterioration in lending standards.

“The share of loans with higher loan-to-valuation ratios had increased, but this was in part explained by the larger share of first-home buyers,” the minutes read.

“Members agreed that it would be important to watch carefully for increased risk taking by lenders and any deterioration in lending standards and larger shares of higher-risk loans.”

What landlords should look for when choosing a property manager….

Appointing a property manager to take care of a rental property is a major decision, but there is more for landlords to consider than fees alone.

How to keep your first property as an investment and why most home owners don’t do it…

How to keep your first property as an investment and why most home owners don’t do it

What happens when you list your home for sale?

What happens when you list your home for sale?

The potential sale of a property becomes very real the moment it’s officially listed by an agent.

While decades ago, listing your home involved simply putting a “for sale” sign in the front garden and the agent taking out an ad in the local newspaper, it’s now all about online advertising and a strategic sales strategy which accompanies it.

 Advertising and the sales strategy

The advertising side typically includes professional photography and a comprehensive media campaign, covering online and social and sometimes print media.

Campaigns usually include an internet listing, a sale board, letterbox drops and agency marketing via magazine and window display.

Then comes the actual sales strategy, which the agent drives. It covers the method of sale, staging suggestions, how many opens there will be and when, how negotiations will be managed, the roll-out and monitoring of advertising and lots more.

Preparation is key for any home sale. Picture: realestate.com.au/buy


Be ready to sell

A home should be picture-perfect the day the listing goes live.

 “You only get one chance at a first impression, so you want to make it count,” he says.  A good agent will help the vendor understand the best way to present their property to maximise the sale price.

Tweaking the strategy

While the sales strategy is designed to guide the sale process, it should be tweaked if needed,  “If, for example, the property doesn’t travel well at its first open, you should you re-assess your approach,”

“We are dealing in a market now where you will find out if the property is doing well in the first five days (of being listed). If you get 20 to 30 people through the inspection on day one, then it’s a good sign. If you get five people through, there is probably a need to re-strategise.”